By any standards the chamber was magnificent. Fine tapestries and paintings covered the walls; a carpet woven with the motive of the White Tree covered the floor. Thickly cushioned, comfortable chairs were arranged round the room, while many priceless and beautiful ornaments adorned the room.
To the three man pacing across the floor, they might have been in a prison or a wretched hovel for all the attention they paid to their surroundings.
"She is too young," Faramir said grimly.
"My mother was even younger when I was born," said Aragorn.
"Those were dangerous times and Lord Arathorn needed an heir," Faramir replied. "Even so, Lady Gilraen's father objected!"
"As do all fathers when their daughters marry, I believe," said Eldarion, trying to appear older than his twenty-two years.
"I welcomed your union with my daughter," Faramir protested. "She is just too young to be a mother yet! Now, I was seven and thirty before I married. "
"Elestelle desired to be wed as soon as we came of age as much as I did!" Eldarion retorted. "And we both eagerly desired a child of our own as soon as the Valar would grant us one."
A loud scream, followed by a woman shouting "I will kill him!" came from the adjoining chamber, stopping all three men in their tracks. Faramir looked as if he might be about to throttle Eldarion until Aragorn stepped between them.
"Peace!" said Aragorn, laying a hand on each of the younger men's shoulders, both to comfort and restrain. "Elestelle is young and strong, and has the best of care; all will be well."
"You would not be so calm if it were your daughter!" Faramir protested. "It is all very well for you to be so cheerful!"
"And what makes you think I am calm now, mellon nîn?" Aragorn said, his voice gentle. "Elestelle is as a daughter to me too."
"I know. It is just..."Faramir slumped wearily onto the couch. Eldarion continued to pace restlessly.
"The waiting seems endless." Aragorn finished the Steward's sentence as he sat down beside him. The two men smiled understandingly at one another. They had supported one another on many occasions such as this before.
"It has been twelve hours already!" Eldarion fretted. "Surely that is too long?"
"You took almost a day and a night to be born," his father informed him. "First babies tend to take their time to arrive!"
"I cannot endure much longer of this waiting!" said Eldarion approaching the door as if desiring to charge through it, then changing his mind.
"Young men are so impatient these days!" Faramir remarked.
"I recall a certain young man, who the morning after his daughter was born, could hardly wait to see her again," said Aragorn.
"It only seems like yesterday," Faramir said rather wistfully.
"I remember the first time Eldarion and Elestelle played with one another," said Aragorn. "He stuck out his tongue at her, before pulling her hair!"
"Adar, please!" Eldarion protested.
An ear-piercing scream rent the air. Then everything went silent.
The three men froze as if turned to statues. Then a child's cry pierced the stillness.
The door opened a narrow crack and Arwen's head appeared. "You have a healthy son, ion nîn!" she announced, smiling broadly at her firstborn.
"And Elestelle?" Eldarion enquired anxiously.
"She is well too. You will see them soon." Arwen's head disappeared and the door closed firmly behind her.
"I am a father!" Eldarion whispered, a look of awe on his face as the news sank in. His features relaxed and he beamed from ear to ear. The new father and the two grandfathers hugged one another delightedly. "I have a son to take out riding with me! We shall go on long camping trips together and I will teach him to hunt and fish and...."
"The babe has not even partaken of his first meal yet!" Aragorn chuckled. "He needs to walk before he can ride! As he is old enough, though, I am looking forward to teaching him some of my old Ranger skills."
"We can take him to my old Ranger haunts," said Faramir. "We will watch the sun go down over Henneth Annûn."
The two older men became so engrossed in their plans for their grandson that they started when Éowyn announced that the new father could see his wife and son. Aragorn and Faramir made to follow. "You must wait here," she said sternly. "Elestelle will not want any save her husband in her chamber. "Seeing the older men's crestfallen looks, she added." Maybe you can see them tomorrow."
"You never change," Faramir said somewhat ruefully. "You are still my fierce Shield maiden!"
"My grey hairs tell a different story!" Éowyn retorted with a wry smile, shepherding the new father inside the chamber and closing the door firmly behind them.
Aragorn and Faramir slumped dejectedly onto the couch. "It is bad enough waiting for a child to arrive, but then not being permitted to see it!" Aragorn lamented.
"The proprieties have to be observed," said Faramir, trying to cheer himself up. "Maybe Éowyn will bring the lad out to see us for a moment."
"New mothers dislike being parted from their young even for a moment," Aragorn pointed out.
"Elestelle will need to sleep soon," Faramir said hopefully. "Maybe we can see the babe then?"
The door opened and a jubilant looking Eldarion emerged. "Adar, Uncle Faramir, come and meet my son!" he cried.
Joyfully, the two grandfathers followed him inside. Elestelle, wrapped in a fine velvet robe, was sitting up in bed clutching a small, shawl wrapped bundle in her arms. "How do you like your grandson?" she asked, smiling and pulling the shawl aside to reveal the most beautiful baby either man had seen, at least since the birth of their own children. The infant's head was covered with a fuzz of dark hair and he stared at them with as yet unfocussed blue- grey eyes. Perfect tiny fists uncurled and seemed to reach out towards them.
The hearts of the King and his Steward swelled with pride. Faramir wondered whatever his father would have thought, that a child of his line should be kindred to his most hated rival; a man who had turned out to be a far more loving father to Faramir than his own sire ever was. Boromir would have been pleased, he was certain, that a scion of their house should be destined to one day to wear the Silver Crown.
The King laid a gentle hand upon the infant's head. "Be thou blessed!" he said solemnly. "He is a fair child indeed," he told Elestelle, kissing her lightly on the brow. "Today is a glorious day, not only for us, but for all the peoples of the Reunited Kingdom!"
Aragorn choked back a tear. This was not just their grandchild, but also the heir to the throne of Gondor and Arnor. The line of Kings would not be broken. In this child, flowed not only the blood of Lúthien and Elendil, but also that of the great House of Húrin, loyal guardians of Gondor for almost a thousand years. It was fitting indeed that in a single child, the two ruling houses were made one, and a scion of both would one day sit upon the throne.